It’s advisable to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both you and your pup, so that evening strolls can be enjoyed throughout the approaching busy festive season, and well into the new year. In this guide, we highlight seven essential tips for navigating the nocturnal world of evening dog walks, from clothing and pathways to refining leash control.
Wear reflective items
Shine and be seen! Adding some reflective items to both you and your dog is an effective way to stay safe. Equip your pup with a reflective collar and leash to enhance visibility or consider attaching reflective tags to your dog's jacket or collar for added safety. We can also wear reflective strips on our coats, hats, or boots to help make us visible for road users and other walkers.
Consider carrying a torch
A small but bright light source will help you and pup navigate uneven or woodland paths to avoid any potential injuries from tripping or falling, and helps make you both visible. Bring a reliable torch to illuminate your path and alert others to your presence, preferably one with a focused beam to avoid disturbing neighbours or drivers on the road.
Choose well-lit and known routes
Plan your walking route in advance, opting for well-lit streets and paths to ensure both you and your dog can see as clearly as possible. Avoid secluded or poorly illuminated areas to minimise potential safety risks, and if possible, tell others where you are walking in case of an emergency. Although exploring new pathways can be exciting, this is possibly best kept for daylight adventures when hazards and other risks can be more easily seen. Create a few reliable and well-known walking routes for the winter evenings, which also pass by populated places such as a shop, restaurants or a friend’s house.
Be mindful of traffic
Traffic can creep up in the dark as speed and distance are a bit more difficult to judge, particularly with cyclists. If walking near roads, keep to the inner edge and always walk against traffic direction to enable you to see oncoming vehicles and react accordingly. Ensure your four-legged friend is well-versed in road etiquette and appropriate behaviour, with good leash control and command obedience so that you both can enjoy the walk without any sudden excitement or behaviour changes.
Maintain control with the leash
Following on from road safety, try to keep pup on a short leash in busy or darker areas to maintain good control and prevent them from wandering into potentially hazardous situations, not just beside roads but throughout your walk. Practise good leash etiquette to avoid tripping hazards for yourself and others walking past, and maintain a predictable walking pace so that you and pup can comfortably fall into stride.
Stay aware of your surroundings
Stay alert to your surroundings, including other pedestrians, cyclists, and potential wildlife. Be mindful of any changes in your dog's behaviour, as they may react differently to night-time creatures and sounds, and be prepared to respond accordingly. Staying alert will help keep you both happily enjoying the night-time air and minimise any unexpected disturbances in the dark.
Adapt routes to seasons
Undoubtedly, summer walks and winter walks are different. If possible, adjust your walking schedule to accommodate changes in daylight hours along with the seasons, being mindful of sunrise and sunset times, tidal changes and weather affecting woodland paths and uneven ground. Bring out the warmer clothing, tweak your daily routine and keep to your reliable winter walking routes until the warmer weather returns.
As we look forward to enjoying the magic of night-time walks with our favourite friends, remember that safety doesn't mean sacrificing joy. Using some reflective items, carrying a small torch, and using a mindful approach to your surroundings, you're ready to set out on winter evenings filled with star gazing, fresh frosty air and wagging tails. As nature slows down for this darker time of year, evening walks are a simple way to find joy in the smaller things, keep healthy and find magic in the moonlight.